Target Audi adds unnecessary pressure to its new F1 project - The Race

Target Audi adds unnecessary pressure to its new F1 project – The Race

Amid the excitement of Audi’s 2026 Formula 1 plans finally being confirmed and the first concrete deals for the new project revealed, the manufacturer also appeared to be making its first mistake.

After what seemed like an eternity of speculation and rumour, one of F1’s longest ‘will they, won’t they’ stories ended recently with news of Audi’s confirmed plans for 2026. during the Belgian Grand Prix at the end of August.

And alongside a big public show of commitment with a press conference and show car launch, Audi said it expected to achieve success soon.

Audi CEO Markus Duesmann admitted that Audi was under “a lot of pressure” to be ready for 2026 and that it would need time to bring its infrastructure up to the required standards. But he still aims to be “very competitive” within three years of his F1 debut.

For a manufacturer like Audi, “very competitive” can only mean at least fighting for the podiums. It’s a bold goal within three years of entering F1, whether from an engine or team perspective.

This will likely have worked well in the boardroom given the penchant of large corporations for three- or five-year plans. And of course it’s not impossible.

Audi has an excellent track record in motorsport and has been extremely successful in other disciplines, including sports car racing and its flagship event: the 24 Hours of Le Mans. He also invests heavily in tooling to be a heavy hitter in F1. Audi does not do things by halves.

But the scale of the challenge should not be underestimated, nor the precedent for which Audi has potentially made an unnecessary mistake. Big manufacturers can’t help themselves when it comes to setting public deadlines to achieve major goals and there’s a tendency for them to get burned by it in F1.

Audi will be the first new engine manufacturer on the grid since joining Honda in 2015 and the first major works team takeover since Renault bought Lotus ahead of the 2016 season. Both have publicly set aggressive targets and failed to reach them.

These are by no means identical situations to Audi. Renault at least had established F1 engine operation when it regained control of ‘Team Enstone’ while Honda played catch-up at the start of brand new regulations. But there are caveats from both projects.

Audi intends to enter as a team and engine supplier and is expected to take over the Sauber operation to do so.

Just look to Renault for a shining example of how taking over an existing team is a simpler process than creating a brand new one, but can still be a daunting task if that team requires significant investment. Renault’s factory team, now dubbed Alpine, finally claimed the first victory of its comeback in last year’s Hungarian Grand Prix, but is still part of the midfield furniture.

She had to rebuild the Enstone operation, which collapsed when Lotus suffered a financial crisis. Sauber – Audi’s route has yet to be officially announced on the grid – is not in the same position but was not far off just a few years ago. Yes, he has already done the initial work to improve his foundations, but he is far from being able to challenge Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes.

It’s still only a sporadic point finisher with obvious question marks over its development and validation capabilities given that the 2022 Alfa Romeo is unreliable and has lost competitiveness over the years. season.

And the magnitude of the engine challenge should not be underestimated either. Honda took five seasons (after a brutal period of public embarrassment) to earn a victory. And the cost of this project was so high when weighed against the desire to electrify the automotive industry that Honda withdrew from F1 as an official participant last year, despite winning the championship. drivers with Red Bull and Max Verstappen.

While Audi comes under modified and less complex rules, and has a longer lead time than Honda’s program which was accelerated for 2015, it still lags behind much more experienced opposition.

Audi knows that instant wins are unlikely and that the project could take years to come to fruition, if it ever comes to fruition. Success is earned, never guaranteed.

But it’s a brand that wins and can win in F1, so its potential is clear. Additionally, the new era of F1’s budget cap is quite favorable to manufacturers wanting to identify fixed costs for certain programs, so Audi can realistically chart a long-term future while avoiding the kind of black hole. financier that consumed many sensitive meeting rooms. work team in the past.

Belgian F1 Grand Prix practice

Now that Audi is finally coming to F1, the prospect of another strong manufacturer fighting at the front is realistic. But whether that happens one year, three years, five years or never from the point of entry – no one knows. Expressing a desire to be competitive is fine. Any hint of when that could or should happen is what’s odd.

Optimism is a fun trait in any F1 team, but it can also be silly. Audi may not have set an ultra-specific goal, but it has still publicly stated a pretty aggressive goal with a short timeline.

The 2026 season will arrive quickly. And we already know what we have to judge Audi on by 2028. That inevitably marks a project that, as Audi has acknowledged, is already under a lot of pressure to succeed.

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